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Atlantic Monthly, Volume 8, No. 48, October, 1861 by Various

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On a fine morning in September, we set out on an excursion to
Blenheim,--the sculptor and myself being seated on the box of our
four-horse carriage, two more of the party in the dicky, and the
others less agreeably accommodated inside. We had no coachman, but two
postilions in short scarlet jackets and leather breeches with top-boots,
each astride of a horse; so that, all the way along, when not otherwise
attracted, we had the interesting spectacle of their up-and-down bobbing
in the saddle. It was a sunny and beautiful day, a specimen of the
perfect English weather, just warm enough for comfort,--indeed, a little
too warm, perhaps, in the noontide sun,--yet retaining a mere spice or
suspicion of austerity, which made it all the more enjoyable.

The country between Oxford and Blenheim is not particularly interesting,
being almost level, or undulating very slightly; nor is Oxfordshire,
agriculturally, a rich part of England. We saw one or two hamlets, and I
especially remember a picturesque old gabled house at a turnpike-gate,
and, altogether, the wayside scenery had an aspect of old-fashioned
English life; but there was nothing very memorable till we reached
Woodstock, and stopped to water our horses at the Black Bear. This
neighborhood is called New Woodstock, but has by no means the brand-new
appearance of an American town, being a large village of stone houses,
most of them pretty well time-worn and weather-stained. The Black Bear
is an ancient inn, large and respectable, with balustraded staircases,
and intricate passages and corridors, and queer old pictures and
engravings hanging in the entries and apartments. We ordered a lunch
(the most delightful of English institutions, next to dinner) to be
ready against our return, and then resumed our drive to Blenheim.

The park-gate of Blenheim stands close to the end of the village-street
of Woodstock. Immediately on passing through its portals, we saw the
stately palace in the distance, but made a wide circuit of the park
before approaching it. This noble park contains three thousand acres of
land, and is fourteen miles in circumference. Having been, in part,
a royal domain before it was granted to the Marlborough family, it
contains many trees of unsurpassed antiquity, and has doubtless been the
haunt of game and deer for centuries. We saw pheasants in abundance,
feeding in the open lawns and glades; and the stags tossed their antlers
and bounded away, not affrighted, but only shy and gamesome, as we
drove by. It is a magnificent pleasure-ground, not too tamely kept, nor
rigidly subjected within rule, but vast enough to have lapsed back into
Nature again, after all the pains that the landscape-gardeners of
Queen Anne's time bestowed on it, when the domain of Blenheim was
scientifically laid out. The great, knotted, slanting trunks of the old
oaks do not now look as if man had much intermeddled with their growth
and postures. The trees of later date, that were set out in the Great
Duke's time, are arranged on the plan of the order of battle in which
the illustrious commander ranked his troops at Blenheim; but the ground
covered is so extensive, and the trees now so luxuriant, that the
spectator is not disagreeably conscious of their standing in military
array, as if Orpheus had summoned them together by beat of drum. The
effect must have been very formal a hundred and fifty years ago, but has
ceased to be so,--although the trees, I presume, have kept their ranks
with even more fidelity than Marlborough's veterans did.

One of the park-keepers, on horseback, rode beside our carriage,
pointing out the choice views, and glimpses at the palace, as we drove
through the domain. There is a very large artificial lake, (to say the
truth, it seemed to me fully worthy of being compared with the Welsh
lakes, at least, if not with those of Westmoreland,) which was created
by Capability Brown, and fills the basin that he scooped for it, just as
if Nature had poured these broad waters into one of her own valleys.
It is a most beautiful object at a distance, and not less so on its
immediate banks; for the water is very pure, being supplied by a small
river, of the choicest transparency, which was turned thitherward for
the purpose. And Blenheim owes not merely this water-scenery, but almost
all its other beauties, to the contrivance of man. Its natural features
are not striking; but Art has effected such wonderful things that the
uninstructed visitor would never guess that nearly the whole scene was
but the embodied thought of a human mind. A skilful painter hardly does
more for his blank sheet of canvas than the landscape-gardener, the
planter, the arranges of trees, has done for the monotonous surface
of Blenheim,--making the most of every undulation,--flinging down a
hillock, a big lump of earth out of a giant's hand, wherever it
was needed,--putting in beauty as often as there was a niche for
it,--opening vistas to every point that deserved to be seen, and
throwing a veil of impenetrable foliage around what ought to be
hidden;--and then, to be sure, the lapse of a century has softened the
harsh outline of man's labors, and has given the place back to Nature
again with the addition of what consummate science could achieve.

After driving a good way, we came to a battlemented tower and adjoining
house, which used to be the residence of the Ranger of Woodstock
Park, who held charge of the property for the King before the Duke of
Marlborough possessed it. The keeper opened the door for us, and in the
entrance-hall we found various things that had to do with the chase and
woodland sports. We mounted the staircase, through several stories,
up to the top of the tower, whence there was a view of the spires
of Oxford, and of points much farther off,--very indistinctly seen,
however, as is usually the case with the misty distances of England.
Returning to the ground-floor, we were ushered into the room in which
died Wilmot, the wicked Earl of Rochester, who was Ranger of the Park in
Charles II.'s time. It is a low and bare little room, with a window in
front, and a smaller one behind; and in the contiguous entrance-room
there are the remains of an old bedstead, beneath the canopy of which,
perhaps, Rochester may have made the penitent end that Bishop Burnet
attributes to him. I hardly know what it is, in this poor fellow's
character, which affects us with greater tenderness on his behalf than
for all the other profligates of his day, who seem to have been neither
better nor worse than himself. I rather suspect that he had a human
heart which never quite died out of him, and the warmth of which is
still faintly perceptible amid the dissolute trash which he left behind.

Methinks, if such good fortune ever befell a bookish man, I should
choose this lodge for my own residence, with the topmost room of the
tower for a study, and all the seclusion of cultivated wildness beneath
to ramble in. There being no such possibility, we drove on, catching
glimpses of the palace in new points of view, and by-and-by came to
Rosamond's Well. The particular tradition that connects Fair Rosamond
with it is not now in my memory; but if Rosamond ever lived and loved,
and ever had her abode in the maze of Woodstock, it may well be believed
that she and Henry sometimes sat beside this spring. It gushes out from
a bank, through some old stone-work, and dashes its little cascade
(about as abundant as one might turn out of a large pitcher) into a
pool, whence it steals away towards the lake, which is not far removed.
The water is exceedingly cold, and as pure as the legendary Rosamond was
not, and is fancied to possess medicinal virtues, like springs at which
saints have quenched their thirst. There were two or three old women
and some children in attendance with tumblers, which they present to
visitors, full of the consecrated water; but most of us filled the
tumblers for ourselves, and drank.

Thence we drove to the Triumphal Pillar which was erected in honor of
the Great Duke, and on the summit of which he stands, in a Roman garb,
holding a winged figure of Victory in his hand, as an ordinary man might
hold a bird. The column is I know not how many feet high, but lofty
enough, at any rate, to elevate Marlborough far above the rest of
the world, and to be visible a long way off: and it is so placed in
reference to other objects, that, wherever the hero wandered about
his grounds, and especially as he issued from his mansion, he must
inevitably have been reminded of his glory. In truth, until I came to
Blenheim, I never had so positive and material an idea of what Fame
really is--of what the admiration of his country can do for a successful
warrior--as I carry away with me and shall always retain. Unless he
had the moral force of a thousand men together, his egotism (beholding
himself everywhere, imbuing the entire soil, growing in the woods,
rippling and gleaming in the water, and pervading the very air with
his greatness) must have been swollen within him like the liver of a
Strasbourg goose. On the huge tablets inlaid into the pedestal of the
column, the entire Act of Parliament, bestowing Blenheim on the Duke
of Marlborough and his posterity, is engraved in deep letters, painted
black on the marble ground. The pillar stands exactly a mile from the
principal front of the palace, in a straight line with the precise
centre of its entrance-hall; so that, as already said, it was the Duke's
principal object of contemplation.

We now proceeded to the palace-gate, which is a great pillared archway,
of wonderful loftiness and state, giving admittance into a spacious
quadrangle. A stout, elderly, and rather surly footman in livery
appeared at the entrance, and took possession of whatever canes,
umbrellas, and parasols he could get hold of, in order to claim sixpence
on our departure. This had a somewhat ludicrous effect. There is
much public outcry against the meanness of the present Duke in his
arrangements for the admission of visitors (chiefly, of course,
his native countrymen) to view the magnificent palace which their
forefathers bestowed upon his own. In many cases, it seems hard that a
private abode should be exposed to the intrusion of the public merely
because the proprietor has inherited or created a splendor which
attracts general curiosity; insomuch that his home loses its sanctity
and seclusion for the very reason that it is better than other men's
houses. But in the case of Blenheim, the public have certainly an
equitable claim to admission, both because the fame of its first
inhabitant is a national possession, and because the mansion was a
national gift, one of the purposes of which was to be a token of
gratitude and glory to the English people themselves. If a man chooses
to be illustrious, he is very likely to incur some little inconveniences
himself, and entail them on his posterity. Nevertheless, his present
Grace of Marlborough absolutely ignores the public claim above
suggested, and (with a thrift of which even the hero of Blenheim himself
did not set the example) sells tickets admitting six persons at ten
shillings: if only one person enters the gate, he must pay for six; and
if there are seven in company, two tickets are required to admit them.
The attendants, who meet you everywhere in the park and palace, expect
fees on their own private account,--their noble master pocketing the ten
shillings. But, to be sure, the visitor gets his money's worth, since it
buys him the right to speak just as freely of the Duke of Marlborough as
if he were the keeper of the Cremorne Gardens.[A]

[Footnote A: The above was written two or three years ago, or more; and
the Duke of that day has since transmitted his coronet to his successor,
who, we understand, has adopted much more liberal arrangements. There is
seldom anything to criticize or complain of, as regards the facility of
obtaining admission to interesting private houses in England.]

Passing through a gateway on the opposite side of the quadrangle, we had
before us the noble classic front of the palace, with its two projecting
wings. We ascended the lofty steps of the portal, and were admitted into
the entrance-hall, the height of which, from floor to ceiling, is not
much less than seventy feet, being the entire height of the edifice. The
hall is lighted by windows in the upper story, and, it being a clear,
bright day, was very radiant with lofty sunshine, amid which a swallow
was flitting to and fro. The ceiling was painted by Sir James Thornhill
in some allegorical design, (doubtless commemorative of Marlborough's
victories,) the purport of which I did not take the trouble to make
out,--contenting myself with the general effect, which was most
splendidly and effectively ornamental.

We were guided through the showrooms by a very civil person, who allowed
us to take pretty much our own time in looking at the pictures. The
collection is exceedingly valuable,--many of these works of Art having
been presented to the Great Duke by the crowned heads of England or the
Continent. One room was all aglow with pictures by Rubens; and there
were works of Raphael, and many other famous painters, any one of which
would be sufficient to illustrate the meanest house that might contain
it. I remember none of them, however, (not being in a picture-seeing
mood,) so well as Vandyck's large and familiar picture of Charles I on
horseback, with a figure and face of melancholy dignity such as never
by any other hand was put on canvas. Yet, on considering this face of
Charles, (which I find often repeated in half-lengths,) and translating
it from the ideal into literalism, I doubt whether the unfortunate king
was really a handsome or impressive-looking man: a high, thin-ridged
nose, a meagre, hatchet face, and reddish hair and beard,--these are the
literal facts. It is the painter's art that has thrown such pensive and
shadowy grace around him.

On our passage through this beautiful suite of apartments, we saw,
through the vista of open doorways, a boy of ten or twelve years old
coming towards us from the farther rooms. He had on a straw hat, a linen
sack that had certainly been washed and re-washed for a summer or two,
and gray trousers a good deal worn,--a dress, in short, which an
American mother in middle station would have thought too shabby for her
darling school-boy's ordinary wear. This urchin's face was rather pale,
(as those of English children are apt to be, quite as often as our own,)
but he had pleasant eyes, an intelligent look, and an agreeable, boyish
manner. It was Lord Sunderland, grandson of the present Duke, and heir--
though not, I think, in the direct line--of the blood of the great
Marlborough, and of the title and estate.

After passing through the first suite of rooms, we were conducted
through a corresponding suite on the opposite side of the entrance-hall.
These latter apartments are most richly adorned with tapestries, wrought
and presented to the first Duke by a sisterhood of Flemish nuns; they
look like great, glowing pictures, and completely cover the walls of the
rooms. The designs purport to represent the Duke's battles and sieges;
and everywhere we see the hero himself, as large as life, and as
gorgeous in scarlet and gold as the holy sisters could make him, with a
three-cornered hat and flowing wig, reining in his horse, and extending
his leading-staff in the attitude of command. Next to Marlborough,
Prince Eugene is the most prominent figure. In the way of upholstery,
there can never have been anything more magnificent than these
tapestries; and, considered as works of Art, they have quite as much
merit as nine pictures out of ten.

One whole wing of the palace is occupied by the library, a most noble
room, with a vast perspective length from end to end. Its atmosphere
is brighter and more cheerful than that of most libraries: a wonderful
contrast to the old college-libraries of Oxford, and perhaps less sombre
and suggestive of thoughtfulness than any large library ought to be;
inasmuch as so many studious brains as have left their deposit on the
shelves cannot have conspired without producing a very serious and
ponderous result. Both walls and ceiling are white, and there are
elaborate doorways and fireplaces of white marble. The floor is of oak,
so highly polished that our feet slipped upon it as if it had been
New-England ice. At one end of the room stands a statue of Queen Anne in
her royal robes, which are so admirably designed and exquisitely wrought
that the spectator certainly gets a strong conception of her royal
dignity; while the face of the statue, fleshy and feeble, doubtless
conveys a suitable idea of her personal character. The marble of this
work, long as it has stood there, is as white as snow just fallen, and
must have required most faithful and religious care to keep it so. As
for the volumes of the library, they are wired within the cases and turn
their gilded backs upon the visitor, keeping their treasures of wit and
wisdom just as intangible as if still in the unwrought mines of human

I remember nothing else in the palace, except the chapel, to which we
were conducted last, and where we saw a splendid monument to the first
Duke and Duchess, sculptured by Rysbrach, at the cost, it is said, of
forty thousand pounds. The design includes the statues of the deceased
dignitaries, and various allegorical flourishes, fantasies, and
confusions; and beneath sleep the great Duke and his proud wife, their
veritable bones and dust, and probably all the Marlboroughs that have
since died. It is not quite a comfortable idea, that these mouldy
ancestors still inhabit, after their fashion, the house where their
successors spend the passing day; but the adulation lavished upon the
hero of Blenheim could not have been consummated, unless the palace of
his lifetime had become likewise a stately mausoleum over his remains,
--and such we felt it all to be, after gazing at his tomb.

The next business was to see the private gardens. An old Scotch
under-gardener admitted us and led the way, and seemed to have a fair
prospect of earning the fee all by himself; but by-and-by another
respectable Scotchman made his appearance and took us in charge, proving
to be the head-gardener in person. He was extremely intelligent and
agreeable, talking both scientifically and lovingly about trees and
plants, of which there is every variety capable of English cultivation.
Positively, the Garden of Eden cannot have been more beautiful than this
private garden of Blenheim. It contains three hundred acres, and by
the artful circumlocution of the paths, and the undulations, and the
skilfully interposed clumps of trees, is made to appear limitless. The
sylvan delights of a whole country are compressed into this space,
as whole fields of Persian roses go to the concoction of an ounce of
precious attar. The world within that garden-fence is not the same weary
and dusty world with which we outside mortals are conversant; it is a
finer, lovelier, more harmonious Nature; and the Great Mother lends
herself kindly to the gardener's will, knowing that he will make evident
the half-obliterated traits of her pristine and ideal beauty, and allow
her to take all the credit and praise to herself. I doubt whether there
is ever any winter within that precinct,--any clouds, except the fleecy
ones of summer. The sunshine that I saw there rests upon my recollection
of it as if it were eternal. The lawns and glades are like the memory of
places where one has wandered when first in love.

What a good and happy life might be spent in a paradise like this! And
yet, at that very moment, the besotted Duke (ah! I have let out a secret
which I meant to keep to myself; but the ten shillings must pay for all)
was in that very garden, (for the guide told us so, and cautioned
our young people not to be uproarious,) and, if in a condition for
arithmetic, was thinking of nothing nobler than how many ten-shilling
tickets had that day been sold. Republican as I am, I should still love
to think that noblemen lead noble lives, and that all this stately and
beautiful environment may serve to elevate them a little way above the
rest of us. If it fail to do so, the disgrace falls equally upon the
whole race of mortals as on themselves; because it proves that no
more favorable conditions of existence would eradicate our vices and
weaknesses. How sad, if this be so! Even a herd of swine, eating the
acorns under those magnificent oaks of Blenheim, would be cleanlier and
of better habits than ordinary swine.

Well, all that I have written is pitifully meagre, as a description of
Blenheim; and I hate to leave it without some more adequate expression
of the noble edifice, with its rich domain, all as I saw them in that
beautiful sunshine; for, if a day had been chosen out of a hundred
years, it could not have been a finer one. But I must give up the
attempt; only further remarking that the finest trees here were cedars,
of which I saw one--and there may have been many such--immense in girth
and not less than three centuries old. I likewise saw a vast heap of
laurel, two hundred feet in circumference, all growing from one root;
and the gardener offered to show us another growth of twice that
stupendous size. If the Great Duke himself had been buried in that spot,
his heroic heart could not have been the seed of a more plentiful crop
of laurels.

We now went back to the Black Bear, and sat down to a cold collation, of
which we ate abundantly, and drank (in the good old English fashion) a
due proportion of various delightful liquors. A stranger in England,
in his rambles to various quarters of the country, may learn little
in regard to wines, (for the ordinary English taste is simple, though
sound, in that particular,) but he makes acquaintance with more
varieties of hop and malt liquor than he previously supposed to exist.
I remember a sort of foaming stuff, called hop-champagne, which is very
vivacious, and appears to be a hybrid between ale and bottled cider.
Another excellent tipple for warm weather is concocted by mixing
brown-stout or bitter ale with ginger-beer, the foam of which stirs
up the heavier liquor from its depths, forming a compound of singular
vivacity and sufficient body. But of all things ever brewed from
malt, (unless it be the Trinity Ale of Cambridge, which I drank long
afterwards, and which Barry Cornwall has celebrated in immortal verse,)
commend me to the Archdeacon, as the Oxford scholars call it, in honor
of the jovial dignitary who first taught these erudite worthies how to
brew their favorite nectar. John Barleycorn has given his very heart to
this admirable liquor; it is a superior kind of ale, the Prince of Ales,
with a richer flavor and a mightier spirit than you can find elsewhere
in this weary world. Much have we been strengthened and encouraged by
the potent blood of the Archdeacon!

A few days after our excursion to Blenheim, the same party set forth,
in two flies, on a tour to some other places of interest in the
neighborhood of Oxford. It was again a delightful day; and, in truth,
every day, of late, had been so pleasant that it seemed as if each must
be the very last of such perfect weather; and yet the long succession
had given us confidence in as many more to come. The climate of England
has been shamefully maligned; its sulkinesses and asperities are not
nearly so offensive as Englishmen tell us (their climate being the only
attribute of their country which they never overvalue); and the really
good summer weather is the very kindest and sweetest that the world

We first drove to the village of Cumnor, about six miles from Oxford,
and alighted at the entrance of the church. Here, while waiting for the
keys, we looked at an old wall of the churchyard, piled up of loose gray
stones which are said to have once formed a portion of Cumnor Hall,
celebrated in Mickle's ballad and Scott's romance. The hall must have
been in very close vicinity to the church,--not more than twenty yards
off; and I waded through the long, dewy grass of the churchyard, and
tried to peep over the wall, in hopes to discover some tangible and
traceable remains of the edifice. But the wall was just too high to be
overlooked, and difficult to clamber over without tumbling down some of
the stones; so I took the word of one of our party, who had been here
before, that there is nothing interesting on the other side. The
churchyard is in rather a neglected state, and seems not to have been
mown for the benefit of the parson's cow; it contains a good many
gravestones, of which I remember only some upright memorials of slate to
individuals of the name of Tabbs.

Soon a woman arrived with the key of the church-door, and we entered the
simple old edifice, which has the pavement of lettered tombstones, the
sturdy pillars and low arches, and other ordinary characteristics of
an English country-church. One or two pews, probably those of the
gentlefolk of the neighborhood, were better furnished than the rest, but
all in a modest style. Near the high altar, in the holiest place, there
is an oblong, angular, ponderous tomb of blue marble, built against the
wall, and surmounted by a carved canopy of the same material; and over
the tomb, and beneath the canopy, are two monumental brasses, such as we
oftener see inlaid into a church-pavement. On these brasses are engraved
the figures of a gentleman in armor and a lady in an antique garb, each
about a foot high, devoutly kneeling in prayer; and there is a long
Latin inscription likewise cut into the enduring brass, bestowing the
highest eulogies on the character of Anthony Forster, who, with his
virtuous dame, lies buried beneath this tombstone. His is the knightly
figure that kneels above; and if Sir Walter Scott ever saw this tomb,
he must have had an even greater than common disbelief in laudatory
epitaphs, to venture on depicting Anthony Forster in such hues as
blacken him in the romance. For my part, I read the inscription in full
faith, and believe the poor deceased gentleman to be a much-wronged
individual, with good grounds for bringing an action of slander in the
courts above.

But the circumstance, lightly as we treat it, has its serious moral.
What nonsense it is, this anxiety, which so worries us, about our good
fame, or our bad fame, after death! If it were of the slightest real
moment, our reputations would have been placed by Providence more in our
own power, and less in other people's, than we now find them to be. If
poor Anthony Forster happens to have met Sir Walter in the other world,
I doubt whether he has ever thought it worth while to complain of the
latter's misrepresentations.

We did not remain long in the church, as it contains nothing else of
interest; and driving through the village, we passed a pretty large and
rather antique-looking inn, bearing the sign of the Bear and Ragged
Staff. It could not be so old, however, by at least a hundred years,
as Giles Gosling's time; nor is there any other object to remind the
visitor of the Elizabethan age, unless it be a few ancient cottages,
that are perhaps of still earlier date. Cumnor is not nearly so large a
village, nor a place of such mark, as one anticipates from its romantic
and legendary fame; but, being still inaccessible by railway, it has
retained more of a sylvan character than we often find in English
country-towns. In this retired neighborhood the road is narrow and
bordered with grass, and sometimes interrupted by gates; the hedges grow
in unpruned luxuriance; there is not that close-shaven neatness and
trimness that characterize the ordinary English landscape. The
whole scene conveys the idea of seclusion and remoteness. We met no
travellers, whether on foot or otherwise.

I cannot very distinctly trace out this day's peregrinations; but, after
leaving Cumnor a few miles behind us, I think we came to a ferry over
the Thames, where an old woman served as ferry-man, and pulled a boat
across by means of a rope stretching from shore to shore. Our
two vehicles being thus placed on the other side, we resumed our
drive,--first glancing, however, at the old woman's antique cottage,
with its stone floor, and the circular settle round the kitchen
fireplace, which was quite in the mediaeval English style.

We next stopped at Stanton Harcourt, where we were received at the
parsonage with a hospitality which we should take delight in describing,
if it were allowable to make public acknowledgment of the private and
personal kindnesses which we never failed to find ready for our needs.
An American in an English house will soon adopt the opinion that the
English are the very kindest people on earth, and will retain that idea
as long, at least, as he remains on the inner side of the threshold.
Their magnetism is of a kind that repels strongly while you keep beyond
a certain limit, but attracts as forcibly if you get within the magic

It was at this place, if I remember right, that I heard a gentleman ask
a friend of mine whether he was the author of "The Red Letter A"; and,
after some consideration, (for he did not seem to recognize his own
book, at first, under this improved title,) our countryman responded,
doubtfully, that he believed so. The gentleman proceeded to inquire
whether our friend had spent much time in America,--evidently thinking
that he must have been caught young, and have had a tincture of English
breeding, at least, if not birth, to speak the language so tolerably,
and appear so much like other people. This insular narrowness is
exceedingly queer, and of very frequent occurrence, and is quite as much
a characteristic of men of education and culture as of clowns.

Stanton Harcourt is a very curious old place. It was formerly the seat
of the ancient family of Harcourt, which now has its principal abode
at Nuneham Courtney, a few miles off. The parsonage is a relic of the
family-mansion, or castle, other portions of which are close at hand;
for, across the garden, rise two gray towers, both of them picturesquely
venerable, and interesting for more than their antiquity. One of these
towers, in its entire capacity, from height to depth, constituted the
kitchen of the ancient castle, and is still used for domestic purposes,
although it has not, nor ever had, a chimney; or we might rather say, it
is itself one vast chimney, with a hearth of thirty feet square, and
a flue and aperture of the same size. There are two huge fireplaces
within, and the interior walls of the tower are blackened with the smoke
that for centuries used to gush forth from them, and climb upward,
seeking an exit through some wide air-holes in the conical roof, full
seventy feet above. These lofty openings were capable of being so
arranged, with reference to the wind, that the cooks are said to have
been seldom troubled by the smoke; and here, no doubt, they were
accustomed to roast oxen whole, with as little fuss and ado as a modern
cook would roast a fowl. The inside of the tower is very dim and sombre,
(being nothing but rough stone walls, lighted only from the apertures
above mentioned,) and has still a pungent odor of smoke and soot, the
reminiscence of the fires and feasts of generations that have passed
away. Methinks the extremest range of domestic economy lies between an
American cooking-stove and the ancient kitchen, seventy dizzy feet in
height, of Stanton Harcourt.

Now--the place being without a parallel in England, and therefore
necessarily beyond the experience of an American--it is somewhat
remarkable, that, while we stood gazing at this kitchen, I was haunted
and perplexed by an idea that somewhere or other I had seen just this
strange spectacle before. The height, the blackness, the dismal void,
before my eyes, seemed as familiar as the decorous neatness of my
grandmother's kitchen; only my unaccountable memory of the scene was
lighted up with an image of lurid fires blazing all round the dim
interior circuit of the tower. I had never before had so pertinacious an
attack, as I could not but suppose it, of that odd state of mind wherein
we fitfully and teasingly remember some previous scene or incident, of
which the one now passing appears to be but the echo and reduplication.
Though the explanation of the mystery did not for some time occur to me,
I may as well conclude the matter here. In a letter of Pope's, addressed
to the Duke of Buckingham, there is an account of Stanton Harcourt, (as
I now find, although the name is not mentioned,) where he resided while
translating a part of the "Iliad." It is one of the most admirable
pieces of description in the language,--playful and picturesque, with
fine touches of humorous pathos,--and conveys as perfect a picture as
ever was drawn of a decayed English country-house; and among other
rooms, most of which have since crumbled down and disappeared, he dashes
off the grim aspect of this kitchen,--which, moreover, he peoples with
witches, engaging Satan himself as head-cook, who stirs the infernal
caldrons that seethe and bubble over the fires. This letter, and others
relative to his abode here, were very familiar to my earlier reading,
and, remaining still fresh at the bottom of my memory, caused the weird
and ghostly sensation that came over me on beholding the real spectacle
that had formerly been made so vivid to my imagination.

Our next visit was to the church, which stands close by, and is quite
as ancient as the remnants of the castle. In a chapel or side-aisle,
dedicated to the Harcourts, are found some very interesting
family-monuments,--and among them, recumbent on a tombstone, the figure
of an armed knight of the Lancastrian party, who was slain in the Wars
of the Roses. His features, dress, and armor are painted in colors,
still wonderfully fresh, and there still blushes the symbol of the Red
Rose, denoting the faction for which he fought and died. His head rests
on a marble or alabaster helmet; and on the tomb lies the veritable
helmet, it is to be presumed, which he wore in battle,--a ponderous iron
case, with the visor complete, and remnants of the gilding that once
covered it. The crest is a large peacock, not of metal, but of wood.
Very possibly, this helmet was but an heraldic adornment of his tomb;
and, indeed, it seems strange that it has not been stolen before
now, especially in Cromwell's time, when knightly tombs were little
respected, and when armor was in request. However, it is needless to
dispute with the dead knight about the identity of his iron pot, and
we may as well allow it to be the very same that so often gave him the
headache in his lifetime. Leaning against the wall, at the foot of the
tomb, is the shaft of a spear, with a wofully tattered and utterly faded
banner appended to it,--the knightly banner beneath which he marshalled
his followers in the field. As it was absolutely falling to pieces, I
tore off one little bit, no bigger than a finger-nail, and put it into
my waistcoat-pocket; but seeking it subsequently, it was not to be

On the opposite side of the little chapel, two or three yards from this
tomb, is another, on which lie, side by side, one of the same knightly
race of Harcourts, and his lady. The tradition of the family is, that
this knight was the standard-bearer of Henry of Richmond in the Battle
of Bosworth Field; and a banner, supposed to be the same that he earned,
now droops over his effigy. It is just such a colorless silk rag as the
one already described. The knight has the order of the Garter on his
knee, and the lady wears it on her left arm,--an odd place enough for a
garter; but, if worn in its proper locality, it could not be decorously
visible. The complete preservation and good condition of these statues,
even to the minutest adornment of the sculpture, and their very
noses,--the most vulnerable part of a marble man, as of a living one,
are miraculous. Except in Westminster Abbey, among the chapels of the
kings, I have seen none so well preserved. Perhaps they owe it to the
loyalty of Oxfordshire, diffused throughout its neighborhood by the
influence of the University, during the great Civil War and the rule
of the Parliament. It speaks well, too, for the upright and kindly
character of this old family, that the peasantry, among whom they had
lived for ages, did not desecrate their tombs, when it might have been
done with impunity.

There are other and more recent memorials of the Harcourts, one of which
is the tomb of the last lord, who died about a hundred years ago. His
figure, like those of his ancestors, lies on the top of his tomb, clad,
not in armor, but in his robes as a peer. The title is now extinct,
but the family survives in a younger branch, and still holds this
patrimonial estate, though they have long since quitted it as a

We next went to see the ancient fish-ponds appertaining to the mansion,
and which used to be of vast dietary importance to the family in
Catholic times, and when fish was not otherwise attainable. There are
two or three, or more, of these reservoirs, one of which is of very
respectable size,--large enough, indeed, to be really a picturesque
object, with its grass-green borders, and the trees drooping over
it, and the towers of the castle and the church reflected within the
weed-grown depths of its smooth mirror. A sweet fragrance, as it were,
of ancient time and present quiet and seclusion was breathing all
around; the sunshine of to-day had a mellow charm of antiquity in its
brightness. These ponds are said still to breed abundance of such fish
as love deep and quiet waters: but I saw only some minnows, and one or
two snakes, which were lying among the weeds on the top of the water,
sunning and bathing themselves at once.

I mentioned that there were two towers remaining of the old castle: the
one containing the kitchen we have already visited; the other, still
more interesting, is next to be described. It is some seventy feet high,
gray and reverend, but in excellent repair, though I could not perceive
that anything had been done to renovate it. The basement story was once
the family-chapel, and is, of course, still a consecrated spot. At
one corner of the tower is a circular turret, within which a narrow
staircase, with worn steps of stone, winds round and round as it climbs
upward, giving access to a chamber on each floor, and finally emerging
on the battlemented roof. Ascending this turret-stair, and arriving at
the third story, we entered a chamber, not large, though occupying the
whole area of the tower, and lighted by a window on each side. It
was wainscoted from floor to ceiling with dark oak, and had a little
fireplace in one of the corners. The window-panes were small, and set in
lead. The curiosity of this room is, that it was once the residence of
Pope, and that he here wrote a considerable part of the translation of
Homer, and likewise, no doubt, the admirable letters to which I have
referred above. The room once contained a record by himself, scratched
with a diamond on one of the window-panes, (since removed for
safe-keeping to Nuneham Courtney, where it was shown me,) purporting
that he had here finished the fifth book of the "Iliad" on such a day.

A poet has a fragrance about him, such as no other human being is gifted
withal; it is indestructible, and clings forevermore to everything that
he has touched. I was not impressed, at Blenheim, with any sense that
the mighty Duke still haunted the palace that was created for him; but
here, after a century and a half, we are still conscious of the presence
of that decrepit little figure of Queen Anne's time, although he was
merely a casual guest in the old tower, during one or two summer months.
However brief the time and slight the connection, his spirit cannot be
exorcised so long as the tower stands. In my mind, moreover, Pope, or
any other person with an available claim, is right in adhering to the
spot, dead or alive; for I never saw a chamber that I should like better
to inhabit,--so comfortably small, in such a safe and inaccessible
seclusion, and with a varied landscape from each window. One of
them looks upon the church, close at hand, and down into the green
churchyard, extending almost to the foot of the tower; the others have
views wide and far, over a gently undulating tract of country. If
desirous of a loftier elevation, about a dozen more steps of the
turret-stair will bring the occupant to the summit of the tower,--where
Pope used to come, no doubt, in the summer evenings, and peep--poor
little shrimp that he was!--through the embrasures of the battlement.

From Stanton Harcourt we drove--I forget how far--to a point where a
boat was waiting for us upon the Thames, or some other stream; for I am
ashamed to confess my ignorance of the precise geographical whereabout.
We were, at any rate, some miles above Oxford, and, I should imagine,
pretty near one of the sources of England's mighty river. It was
little more than wide enough for the boat, with extended oars, to
pass,--shallow, too, and bordered with bulrushes and water-weeds, which,
in some places, quite overgrew the surface of the river from bank to
bank. The shores were flat and meadow-like, and sometimes, the boatman
told us, are overflowed by the rise of the stream. The water looked
clean and pure, but not particularly transparent, though enough so to
show us that the bottom is very much weed-grown; and I was told that the
weed is an American production, brought to England with importations of
timber, and now threatening to choke up the Thames and other English
rivers. I wonder it does not try its obstructive powers upon the
Merrimack, the Connecticut, or the Hudson,--not to speak of the St.
Lawrence or the Mississippi!

It was an open boat, with cushioned seats astern, comfortably
accommodating our party; the day continued sunny and warm, and perfectly
still; the boatman, well trained to his business, managed the oars
skilfully and vigorously; and we went down the stream quite as swiftly
as it was desirable to go, the scene being so pleasant, and the passing
hour so thoroughly agreeable. The river grew a little wider and deeper,
perhaps, as we glided on, but was still an inconsiderable stream; for it
had a good deal more than a hundred miles to meander through before it
should bear fleets on its bosom, and reflect palaces and towers and
Parliament-houses and dingy and sordid piles of various structure, as it
rolled to and fro with the tide, dividing London asunder. Not, in truth,
that I ever saw any edifice whatever reflected in its turbid breast,
when the sylvan stream, as we beheld it now, is swollen into the Thames
at London.

Once, on our voyage, we had to land, while the boatman and some other
persons drew our skiff round some rapids, which we could not otherwise
have passed; another time, the boat went through a lock. We, meanwhile,
stepped ashore to examine the ruins of the old nunnery of Godstowe,
where Fair Rosamond secluded herself, after being separated from her
royal lover. There is a long line of ruinous wall, and a shattered tower
at one of the angles; the whole much ivy-grown,--brimming over, indeed,
with clustering ivy, which is rooted inside of the walls. The nunnery is
now, I believe, held in lease by the city of Oxford, which has converted
its precincts into a barnyard. The gate was under lock and key, so that
we could merely look at the outside, and soon resumed our places in the

At three o'clock, or thereabouts, (or sooner or later,--for I took
little heed of time, and only wished that these delightful wanderings
might last forever,) we reached Folly Bridge, at Oxford. Here we took
possession of a spacious barge, with a house in it, and a comfortable
dining-room or drawing-room within the house, and a level roof, on which
we could sit at ease, or dance, if so inclined. These barges are common
at Oxford,--some very splendid ones being owned by the students of
the different colleges, or by clubs. They are drawn by horses, like
canal-boats; and a horse being attached to our own barge, he trotted off
at a reasonable pace, and we slipped through the water behind him, with
a gentle and pleasant motion, which, save for the constant vicissitude
of cultivated scenery, was like no motion at all. It was life without
the trouble of living; nothing was ever more quietly agreeable. In this
happy state of mind and body we gazed at Christ-Church meadows, as we
passed, and at the receding spires and towers of Oxford, and on a good
deal of pleasant variety along the banks: young men rowing or fishing;
troops of naked boys bathing, as if this were Arcadia, in the simplicity
of the Golden Age; country-houses, cottages, water-side inns, all with
something fresh about them, as not being sprinkled with the dust of the
highway. We were a large party now; for a number of additional guests
had joined us at Folly Bridge, and we comprised poets, novelists,
scholars, sculptors, painters, architects, men and women of renown, dear
friends, genial, outspoken, open-hearted Englishmen,--all voyaging
onward together, like the wise ones of Gotham in a bowl. I remember not
a single annoyance, except, indeed, that a swarm of wasps came aboard of
us and alighted on the head of one of our young gentlemen, attracted by
the scent of the pomatum which he had been rubbing into his hair. He was
the only victim, and his small trouble the one little flaw in our day's
felicity, to put us in mind that we were mortal.

Meanwhile a table had been laid in the interior of our barge, and
spread with cold ham, cold fowl, cold pigeon-pie, cold beef, and other
substantial cheer, such as the English love, and Yankees too,--besides
tarts, and cakes, and pears, and plums,--not forgetting, of course, a
goodly provision of port, sherry, and champagne, and bitter ale,
which is like mother's milk to an Englishman, and soon grows equally
acceptable to his American cousin. By the time these matters had been
properly attended to, we had arrived at that part of the Thames which
passes by Nuneham Courtney, a fine estate belonging to the Harcourts,
and the present residence of the family. Here we landed, and, climbing
a steep slope from the river-side, paused a moment or two to look at an
architectural object, called the Carfax, the purport of which I do not
well understand. Thence we proceeded onward, through the loveliest park
and woodland scenery I ever saw, and under as beautiful a declining
sunshine as heaven ever shed over earth, to the stately mansion-house.

As we here cross a private threshold, it is not allowable to pursue
my feeble narrative of this delightful day with the same freedom as
heretofore; so, perhaps, I may as well bring it to a close. I may
mention, however, that I saw the library, a fine, large apartment, hung
round with portraits of eminent literary men, principally of the last
century, most of whom were familiar guests of the Harcourts. The house
itself is about eighty years old, and is built in the classic style, as
if the family had been anxious to diverge as far as possible from the
Gothic picturesqueness of their old abode at Stanton Harcourt. The
grounds were laid out in part by Capability Brown, and seemed to me even
more beautiful than those of Blenheim. Mason the poet, a friend of the
house, gave the design of a portion of the garden. Of the whole place I
will not be niggardly of my rude Transatlantic praise, but be bold
to say that it appeared to me as perfect as anything earthly can
be,--utterly and entirely finished, as if the years and generations
had done all that the hearts and minds of the successive owners could
contrive for a spot they dearly loved. Such homes as Nuneham Courtney
are among the splendid results of long hereditary possession; and we
Republicans, whose households melt away like new-fallen snow in a
spring morning, must content ourselves with our many counterbalancing
advantages,--for this one, so apparently desirable to the far-projecting
selfishness of our nature, we are certain never to attain.

It must not be supposed, nevertheless, that Nuneham Courtney is one of
the great show-places of England. It is merely a fair specimen of the
better class of country-seats, and has a hundred rivals, and many
superiors, in the features of beauty, and expansive, manifold, redundant
comfort, which most impressed me. A moderate man might be content with
such a home,--that is all.

And now I take leave of Oxford without even an attempt to describe
it,--there being no literary faculty, attainable or conceivable by me,
which can avail to put it adequately, or even tolerably, upon paper. It
must remain its own sole expression; and those whose sad fortune it may
be never to behold it have no better resource than to dream about
gray, weather-stained, ivy-grown edifices, wrought with quaint Gothic
ornament, and standing around grassy quadrangles, where cloistered walks
have echoed to the quiet footsteps of twenty generations,--lawns and
gardens of luxurious repose, shadowed with canopies of foliage, and
lit up with sunny glimpses through archways of great boughs,--spires,
towers, and turrets, each with its history and legend,--dimly
magnificent chapels, with painted windows of rare beauty and brilliantly
diversified hues, creating an atmosphere of richest gloom,--vast
college-halls, high-windowed, oaken-panelled, and hung round with
portraits of the men, in every age, whom the University has nurtured to
be illustrious,--long vistas of alcoved libraries, where the wisdom
and learned folly of all time is shelved,--kitchens, (we throw in this
feature by way of ballast, and because it would not be English Oxford
without its beef and beer,) with huge fireplaces, capable of roasting a
hundred joints at once,--and cavernous cellars, where rows of piled-up
hogsheads seethe and fume with that mighty malt-liquor which is the true
milk of Alma Mater: make all these things vivid in your dream, and you
will never know nor believe how inadequate is the result to represent
even the merest outside of Oxford.

We feel a genuine reluctance to conclude this article without making our
grateful acknowledgements, by name, to a gentleman whose overflowing
kindness was the main condition of all our sight-seeings and enjoyments.
Delightful as will always be our recollection of Oxford and its
neighborhood, we partly suspect that it owes much of its happy coloring
to the genial medium through which the objects were presented to us,--to
the kindly magic of a hospitality unsurpassed, within our experience, in
the quality of making the guest contented with his host, with himself,
and everything about him. He has inseparably mingled his image with our
remembrance of the Spires of Oxford.


For some reason which it does not concern us now to investigate,
Kentucky, under the dominion of the white man, has continued to justify
its native name of "Dark and Bloody Ground," in being the scene of a
remarkable number of tragedies in real life.

One of these, less known to the public in later times, we think
transcends all the others in boldness of conception, regularity of plot,
variety of passion and character displayed, and horror and pathos of
catastrophe. It might have furnished a worthy subject to the pen of
Sophocles or Shakespeare, one that they would have found already cast
into a highly dramatic form, requiring only fitting words to convey the
passions of the actors. Little invention of situation or incident
would have been needed, for neither could be imagined more intensely
interesting; nor could the most finished artist have constructed a plot
more coherent in all its details, or more strictly in accordance with
the rules of composition,--even to the preservation of the Aristotelian
unities of time and place. So perfect, indeed, does it seem, that,
were it not substantiated in every point by the records of a judicial
tribunal, it might well be taken for the invention of some master of
human nature and the dramatic art.

Captain Cyril Wilde, the hero, or rather the victim, of the events we
are about to narrate, was one of those perfectly happy men whom every
one has learned to regard as favorites of Fortune, and on whom no one
ever expects disaster to fall, simply because it never has done so. Well
descended, at a period when good birth was a positive honor in itself,
and connected, either by affinity or friendship, with the best society
of Kentucky, he held, by hereditary right, a high position among that
old aristocracy which then and for a long time afterward stoutly
maintained its own against the encroaching spirit of democratic
equality, and whose members still kept in mind many of the traditions,
honored in their own persons the dignity, and strove to preserve in
their households somewhat of the manners, of the Cavaliers of the Old
Dominion. Nor was wealth wanting to complete his happiness,--at least,
such wealth as was needed by one of his simple tastes and unostentatious
habits. He was rich beyond his disposition to spend, but not beyond his
capacity to enjoy,--a capacity multiplied by as many times as he had
friends to stimulate it;--summer friends, alas! too many of them proved
to be. His character was without reproach; his disposition easy and
genial; his mind of that happy middle order which always commands
respect, while it feels none of the restless ambition and impotent
longing for public recognition that usually attend the possession of
superior abilities.

Such was the position of Captain Wilde, and such the character he bore
during the first thirty-eight years of his life. Not many have known
a more lengthened prosperity,--and few, very few, a more sudden and
terrible reverse. Fortune, like a fond mistress, had lavished her gifts
on him without stint,--but, like a jealous one, seemed resolved that he
should owe everything to her gratuitous bounty, and the moment he sought
to win an object of desire by his own exertions turned her face away
forever, persecuting her former favorite thenceforth with vindictive
malice. Continuing to yield, for a time, with apparent complacency,
every boon he sought, she treacherously concealed therein the germs of
all his woes.

In the year 17--Captain Wilde was persuaded to better his already happy
condition by marriage. The lady he chose, or suffered to be chosen for
him, was a Miss M----, a scion of one of those extensive families, not
now so common as formerly, which by repeated intermarriage and always
settling together develop a spirit of clanship, so exclusive as to make
them almost incapable of any feeling of interest outside of their own
name and connection, and render them liable to regard any person
of different blood, who may happen to intermarry among them, as an
intruder. In some parts of the Union these clans may still be found
flourishing in considerable purity and vigor,--the same name sometimes
prevailing over a district of many miles,--a fact which an observant
traveller would surmise from a certain prevailing cast of form and

It was with a family of this kind that Captain Wilde was, in an evil
hour, induced to ally himself,--a step which soon proved to be the first
in a long career of misfortune. The lady possessed that worst of
all tempers, a quick and irritable, but at the same time hard and
unforgiving one. And she soon showed, that, in her estimation, the
feelings and interests of her husband were as nothing in comparison with
those of her family, and that, in any variance, she would leave the
former and cleave to the latter. Such variances were, unfortunately,
almost inevitable; for the family of Mrs. Wilde differed both in
politics and religion from her husband,--a fact, it may here be
remarked, which had no small influence on his subsequent fate,--and the
narrow, bigoted exclusiveness of the wife was utterly incompatible with
the free and open-hearted fellowship with which the husband received
his acquaintances, of whatever sect or party. In a very few months,
therefore, it began to be whispered abroad that the hitherto happy and
joyous bachelor's-hall had become a scene of constant bickerings and

But mere incongruity of tempers and habits was not, as was supposed by
their neighbors, the only source of domestic discord. This might in time
have entirely disappeared; had conjugal confidence only been allowed its
natural growth, all might have been passably well in the end, in spite
of such serious drawbacks; for, from the necessity of his nature, the
husband would in time have become completely subservient to the sterner
spirit of his wife, which, in turn, might have been mollified in some
degree amid the peaceful duties of home;--a state of things that has
existed in many families, which have, nevertheless, enjoyed a fair
share of domestic happiness in spite of this inversion of the natural
relations of their heads. But Mrs. Wilde had brought into her husband's
house that deadliest foe of domestic peace, an elderly, ill-tempered,
suspicious female relative, serving in the capacity of _confidante_.
This curse was embodied in the person of a much older sister, who
happened to be neither maid, wife, nor widow, and, having once effected
an entrance under the pretence of assisting to arrange the disordered
household-affairs, easily contrived to render her position a permanent
one. So soon as this was achieved, she appears to have begun her hateful
work of sowing discord between the new-married pair. Having long since
blighted her own hopes of happiness, she seemed to find no consolation
so sweet as wrecking that of others;--not that she had no love for her
sister; on the contrary, her love, such as it was, was really strong
and lasting; and in her fierce grief for that sister's death she met
a punishment almost equal to her deserts. Nor was it long before she
provided herself with a most effectual means of accomplishing her
malicious object, of inflaming the troubles of the household into which
she had intruded herself. This was the discovery, real or pretended, of
a former illicit connection between her brother-in-law and a pretty and
intelligent mulatto girl, about eighteen or nineteen years of age, who
was still retained in the family in the capacity of housemaid. Having
once struck this jarring chord, she continued to play upon it with
diabolical skill. To those who watched the course of her unholy labors,
the energy and ingenuity with which this wretched woman wrought at her
task, and the completeness of her success, would have seemed a subject
of admiration, if the result had not been so deplorable as to merge all
other emotions in indignant detestation.

So thoroughly had her design been accomplished in the course of a single
year, that the birth of as sweet a child as ever smiled upon fond
parents, instead of serving as a point of union between Captain Wilde
and his wife, only increased their estrangement by furnishing another
subject of contention. Alas! the peace of Eden was not more utterly
destroyed by the treacherous wiles of the serpent than that of this
ill-starred household by the whispers of this serpent in woman's shape.
Under her continual exasperations, Mrs. Wilde's temper, naturally harsh,
became at last so outrageous and unbridled as to render her unfortunate
husband's life one long course of humiliation and misery. Far from
taking any pains to hide their discords from the world, she seemed
to court observation by seizing every opportunity of inflicting
mortification upon him in public, reckless of the reflections such
improprieties might bring upon herself.

But why, it may be asked, did not both parties seek a separation, when
affairs had reached such a state as this? First, because Captain Wilde,
though advised thereto, naturally shrank from the scandal such a step
always occasions; and, on the other side, because his wife was gifted
with one of those intolerable tempers that make some women cling to a
partner they hate with a jealous tenacity which love could scarcely
inspire, simply for the reason that a separation would put an end to
their power, so dearly prized, of inflicting pain;--for hatred has its
jealousy, as well as love.

Of the perverse ingenuity of these two women in causing the deepest
mortification to the unfortunate gentleman, whenever Fate and his own
weakness gave them the power, we will notice one instance, on account of
the important influence it had in bringing about the denouement of this
domestic tragedy.

According to the kindly custom of that time, Captain Wilde had on one
occasion requested the assistance of some of his neighbors in treading
out his grain; and the party had set to work at dawn, in order to avail
themselves of the cooler portion of the day. After waiting with longing
ears for the sound of the breakfast-horn, they finally, at a late hour,
repaired to the house, uncalled. Here the host, supposing all to be
ready, led his friends unceremoniously into the dining-room, where he
was astonished, and not a little angered, to find his wife and sister
seated composedly at their meal, which they had already nearly finished,
with only the three customary plates on the table, and no apparent
preparation for a larger number. On his beginning to remonstrate in a
rather heated tone, his wife arose, and, remarking that she had not been
used to eat in company with common laborers, swept disdainfully from the
room, followed by her sister. No more unpardonable insult could have
been offered to Kentucky farmers, at the very foundation of whose social
creed lay the principle of equality, and of whose character an intense
and jealous feeling of personal dignity was the most salient feature:
for these were men of independent means, who had come rather to
superintend the labors of their negroes than to labor themselves,--such
occasions being regarded only as pleasant opportunities for free and
unrestrained sociability, far more agreeable than formal and ceremonious
visits. On these occasions, the host would conduct his friends over
his farm to survey the condition of his crops, or point out to their
admiration his fine cattle, or obtain their opinion concerning some
contemplated improvement;--a most admirable means of drawing closer the
bonds of neighborly feeling and interest. A more bitter mortification,
therefore, could hardly have been devised for one who always prided
himself on his open-hearted Kentucky hospitality even to strangers.
Justly enraged by such foolish and ill-timed rudeness, he flung a knife,
which he had idly taken up, violently upon the table, swearing that his
friends should, in his house, be treated as gentlemen; at the same time
calling to the mulatto, Fanny, he bade her prepare breakfast, and added,
in a tone but half-suppressed, "You are the only woman on the place
who behaves like a lady." This imprudent remark was overheard by the
ever-present sister-in-law, and the use she made of it may be imagined.

In this unpleasant state of his domestic relations, the character of
Captain Wilde Seemed to undergo an entire transformation. From being
remarkable for his love of quiet retirement, he became restless and
dissatisfied; and instead of laughing, as formerly, at public employment
as only vanity and vexation, he, now that a greater vexation assailed
him in his once peaceful home, eagerly sought relief, not, as a younger
or less virtuous man might have done, in dissipation, but in the
distractions of public business. But here again his evil fortune granted
the desired boon in a shape pregnant with future disaster. The hostility
of Mrs. Wilde's family, which had now become deeply excited,--combined
with his own political heterodoxy,--forbade any hope of attaining a
place by popular choice; and in an evil hour his friends succeeded in
procuring him the office of exciseman.

Now there is no peculiarity more marked in all the branches of the
Anglo-Saxon race than the extreme impatience with which they submit to
any direct interference of the government in the private affairs of the
citizens; and no form of such interference has ever been so generally
odious as the excise, and, by consequence, no officer so generally
detested as the exciseman. This feeling, on account of the very large
number of persons engaged in distilling, was then formidably strong in
Kentucky,--all the more so that this form of taxation was a favorite
measure of the existing Federal Administration. Those who ventured to
accept so hateful an office at the hands of so hated a government were
sure to make themselves highly unpopular. In time, when the people began
to learn their own strength and the weakness of the authorities,
the enforcement of the law became dangerous, and at last altogether
impossible. The writer has been told, by a gentleman holding a
responsible position under our judicial system, that the name of his
grandfather--the last Kentucky exciseman--to this day stands charged on
the government-books with thousands of dollars arrears, although he was
a man of great courage and not at all likely to be deterred from the
discharge of his duty by any ordinary obstacle.

Such was the place sought and obtained by the unfortunate Wilde as
a refuge from domestic wretchedness. The consequence it was easy to
foresee. In a few months, he who had been accustomed to universal
good-will became an object of almost as general dislike; and as people
are apt to attribute all sorts of evil to one who has by any means
incurred their hostility, and are never satisfied until they have
blackened the whole character in which they have found one offensive
quality, the family difficulties of the unpopular official soon became a
theme of common scandal, all the blame, of course, being laid upon him.
This state of things, disagreeable in itself, proved most unfortunate in
its influence on his subsequent fate; for, had he retained his previous
popularity in the county, the last deplorable catastrophe would
certainly never have happened: since every lawyer knows full well, that,
in capital cases especially, juries are merely the exponents of public
sentiment, and that the power of any judge to cause the excited
sympathies of a whole community to sink into calm indifference at the
railing of a jury-box is about as effective as was the command of the
Dane in arresting the in-rolling waters of the ocean. This is peculiarly
true in this country, where the people, both in theory and in fact, are
so completely sovereign that the institutions of government are only
instruments, having little capability of independent, and none at all of
antagonistic action. The skilful advocate, therefore, always watches the
crowd of eager faces without the bar, with eye as anxious and far more
prophetic than that with which he studies the formal countenances of the
panel whom he directly addresses.

There was one circumstance, arising indirectly from his public
employment, that exercised no trivial influence upon Captain Wilde's
fate. On one occasion, while engaged with a brother-official in
arranging their books preparatory to the annual settlement, his wife,
becoming enraged because he failed to attend instantly to her orders
concerning some trifling domestic matter, rushed into his study and
caught up an armful of papers, which she attempted to throw into the
fire. The documents were of great importance; and to prevent her
carrying her childish purpose into execution, her husband was obliged
to seize her quickly and violently, and drag her from the hearth. The
reader will hardly recognize this incident in the form in which it was
afterward detailed from the witness-stand; and it is only on account
of the effect which this and other occurrences of like nature had in
bringing about the final event of our history, that we take the trouble
to narrate matters so trifling and uninteresting; for it appeared that
every incident of the kind was carefully registered in the memory of
the Erinnys of this devoted household, whence it came out magnified and
distorted into a brutal and unprovoked outrage.

Wretched indeed must have been the state of that family in which such
scenes were allowed to meet the eyes of strangers; and again it may be
asked, Why did not Captain Wilde take measures to dissolve a union
that had resulted in so much unhappiness, and in which all hope of
improvement must now have disappeared? Such a step would certainly have
been wise; nor could the strictest moralist have found aught to censure
therein. But it was now too late. No observer of human affairs has
failed to notice how surely a stronger character gains ascendency over a
weaker with which it is brought into familiar contact. No law of man can
abrogate this great law of Nature. Talk as we may about the power of
knowledge or intellect or virtue, the whole ordering of society shows
that it is strength of character which fixes the relative status of
individuals. In whatever community we may live, we need only look around
to discover that its real leaders are not the merely intelligent,
educated, and good, but the energetic, the self-asserting, the
aggressive. Nor will mere passive strength of will prevent subjection;
for how often do we see a spirit, whose only prominent characteristic is
a restless and tireless pugnacity, hold in complete subserviency those
who are far superior in actual strength of mind, purely through the
apathy of the latter, and their indisposition to live in a state of
constant effort! It is because this petty domineering temper is found
much oftener in women than in men, that we see a score of henpecked
husbands to one ill-used wife. Woe to the man who falls into this kind
of slavery to a wicked woman! for through him she will commit acts she
would never dare in her own person; and a double woe to him, if he be
not as wicked and hardened as his mistress! The bargain of the old
Devil-bought magicians was profitable, compared with his; since he gets
nothing whatever for the soul he surrenders up.

In the present case, a couple of years sufficed for the energetic and
ever-belligerent temper of the wife to subdue completely the mild and
peaceable nature of the husband. At her bidding most of his former
acquaintances were discarded; and even his warmest friends and nearest
relations, no longer meeting the old hearty welcome, gradually ceased
to visit his house. But the bitterest effect of this weak and culpable
abdication of his rights was experienced by his slaves. Sad indeed for
them was the change from the ease and abundance of the bachelor's-hall,
where slavery meant little more than a happy exemption from care, to
their present condition, in which it meant hopeless submission to the
power of a capricious and cruel mistress. The worst form of female
tyranny is that exhibited on a Southern plantation, under the sway of a
termagant. Her power to afflict is so complete and all-pervading, that
not an hour, nay, hardly a minute of the victim's life is exempt, if
the disposition exist to exercise it. Besides, this species of domestic
oppression has this in common with all the worst tyrannies which have
been most feared and hated by men: the severities are ordered by those
who neither execute them nor witness their execution,--that being
left to agents, usually hardened to their office, and who dare not be
merciful, even if so inclined. It adds two-fold to the bitterness of
such tyranny, that the tyrant is able to acquire a sort of exemption
from the weakness of pity. It is wisely ordered that few human beings
shall feel aught but pain in looking upon the extreme bodily anguish of
their fellow-men; and when a monster appears who seems to contradict
this benign law, he is embalmed as a monster, and transmitted to future
times along with such _rara aves_ as Caligula, Domitian, and Nana Sahib.
And here--as a Southern man, brought up in the midst of a household of
slaves--let me remark, that the worst feature of our system of slavery
is the possibility of the negroes falling into the hands of a brutal
owner capable of exercising all the power of inflicting misery which the
law gives him.

But the natural law of compensation is universal; and if the most
wretched object in existence be a slave subject to the sway of a brutal
owner, certainly the next is the humane master who has to do with a
sullen, malicious, or dishonest negro,--while for one instance of the
former, there are a hundred of the latter who would willingly give up
the whole value of their human chattels in order to get rid of the
vexations they occasion. And where master and man were equally bad, we
have known cases in which it was really hard to say which contrived to
inflict most misery: the one might get used to blows and curses so as
not much to mind them, but the other could never escape the agonies of
rage into which his contumacious chattel was able to throw him at any

Captain Wilde's temper was more than usually mild and lenient; and he
was probably the most wretched being on his own plantation during the
last two years of his life,--a day seldom passing that he was not
compelled to inflict some sort of punishment upon his negroes. These,
however, never ceased to feel for him the respectful attachment inspired
by his kindness during the happy years of his bachelor-life; but,
strange as it may seem, that feeling was now mingled with a sort of
pity; for they well knew the painful reluctance with which he obeyed the
harsh commands of his wife. And of all who mourned the hapless fate
of this unfortunate gentleman, none mourned more bitterly, and few
cherished his memory so long or so tenderly, as these humble dependants,
who best knew his real character.

But it was upon the mulatto girl Fanny, particularly, that the
tyrannical cruelty of Mrs. Wilde was poured out in all its severity.
From some cause,--whether because her duties rendered her more liable
to commit irritating faults, or whether, being always in sight, she was
simply the most convenient object of abuse, or whether on account of the
alleged former intimacy between this girl and her master,--certain it
is that the hatred with which the mistress pursued her had something in
it almost diabolical. And she seemed to take a peculiar satisfaction
in making her husband the instrument of her persecutions: an ingenious
method of punishing both her victims, if the motive were the last of
those above suggested. And truly bitter it must have been to both, when
the hand that had been only too kind was now forced to the infliction
even of stripes; so that one hardly knows which to pity most: though,
if the essence of punishment be degradation, certainly the legal slave
suffered less of it than the moral one who had fallen so low beneath the
dominion of a termagant wife. But let it be ever remembered to the honor
of this wretched daughter of bondage, that, in spite of all, she never
lost that devoted attachment for her master which in one of a more
favored race might be called by a softer name. For, whatever may have
been his feelings toward her, there can remain no doubt of the nature of
hers for him,--so touchingly displayed at a subsequent period, when she
cast away the terror of violent death, so strong in all her race, and
sought, by a voluntary confession of guilt never imputed to her, to
save him by taking his place upon the scaffold. Surely, such heroic
self-sacrifice suffices to

Her dark despair and plead for its one crime."

It was probably on a discovery of this feeling in the girl that the
intermeddling sister-in-law founded her charge against the master.

But there is a point beyond which human endurance cannot go,--at
which milder natures turn to voluntary death as a refuge from further
suffering, and fiercer ones begin to contemplate crime with savage
complacency. Towards this point the ruthless and persevering cruelty of
these two women was now rapidly driving their wretched victim, and soon,
very soon, they were to learn that they had been hunting, not a lamb,
but a tigress, whose single spring, when brought to bay, would be as
quick, as sure, and as deadly as was ever made from an Indian jungle.
For now, near the end of the third year of Captain Wilde's married life,
its wretched scenes of discord and tyranny were about to be closed in a
catastrophe that was to overwhelm a great community with consternation
and horror, and blot an entire family out of existence almost in a
single night,--a catastrophe in which Providence, true to that ideal of
perfect justice called poetical, working out the punishment of two
of the actors by means of their own inhumanity, at the same time
mysteriously involved two others,--one clothed in all the innocence
of infancy, and the other guilty only through weakness and as the
instrument of another. Seldom has destruction been more sudden or more
complete, and never, perhaps, was so annihilating a blow dealt by so
weak a hand.

Those who remember the early times of Kentucky know that the place of
the agricultural and mechanics' fairs of the present day was supplied
by "big meetings," which, under the various names of associations,
camp-meetings, and basket-meetings, continued in full popularity to a
quite recent period, and were at last partially suppressed on account
of the immorality which they occasioned and encouraged. It was to these
holy fairs--as now to secular ones--that the wealth and fashion of
early Kentucky crowded for the purpose of displaying themselves most
conspicuously before the eyes of assembled counties. Mrs. Wilde, like
most women of her temper, was passionately fond of such public triumphs,
and had determined, at a camp-meeting soon to be held in the vicinity,
to outshine all her rural neighbors in splendor. For the full
realization of this ambition, a new carriage was, in her opinion,
absolutely necessary. This fact she communicated to her husband, and
upon some demur on his part, a thing now very rare, her temper, as
usual, broke forth in a storm of reproach and abuse, so that the poor
man, completely subdued, was glad to purchase peace by acquiescence
in what his judgment regarded as a foolish expense; and he prepared
immediately to set off for L---- to procure the coveted vehicle. But
before he had mounted, his wife, yet hot from their recent altercation,
discovered or affected to discover some negligence on the part of the
mulatto girl, who was engaged in nursing the child, which was at this
time suffering from a dangerous illness. Now the one tender trait of
this violent woman was intense love for her offspring; but it was a
love that, far from softening her manner toward others, partook, on the
contrary, of the fierceness of her general character, and became, like
that of a wild animal for its young, a source of constant apprehension
to those whose duty compelled them to approach its object. So now,
seizing the weeping culprit by the hair, she dragged her to the door,
and, after exhausting her own powers of maltreatment, called to her
husband and ordered him to bring, on his return, a new cowhide,--"For
you shall," cried she, in uncontrollable rage, "give this wretch, in the
morning, two hundred lashes!" It was a brutal threat, falling from the
lips of one who was called a lady: for, of all tortures, that of
the cowhide is for the moment the most intolerable, in its sharp,
penetrating agony, as is well known by those who remember even a
moderate application of it to their own person in school-boy days. The
victim knew that the execution of the barbarous menace would be strict
to the letter, and that it would be but little preferable to death
itself. Yet, in spite of this, she now, for the first time, failed to
cower and tremble, but arose and faced her oppressor, erect and defiant.
The last drop had now been dashed into the cup of endurance,--the final
blow had been struck, under which the human spirit either falls crushed
and prostrated forever, or from which it springs up tempered to
adamantine hardness, and incapable thenceforth of feeling either fear
for itself or pity for its smiter. That one moment had entirely reversed
the relations of the two, making the slave mistress of her mistress's
fate, while the latter thenceforward held her very existence at the will
of her slave. The cruel woman had raised up for herself that enemy more
terrible even to throned tyrants than an army with banners: for there
is something truly terrific in the almost omnipotent power of harm
possessed by any intelligent being, whom hatred, or fanaticism, or
suffering has wound up to that point of desperation where it is willing
to throw away its own life in order to reach that of an adversary,
--such desperation as inspired the gladiator Maternus, in his romantic
expedition from the woods of Transylvania through the marshes of
Pannonia and the Alpine passes, to strike the lord of the Roman world
in the recesses of his own palace, and in the presence of his thousand
guards. He who has provoked such hostility can know no safety, but in
the destruction of his enemy,--a fact well understood by the elder
Napoleon, who, however he might admire, never pardoned those whose
attempts on his person showed them utterly reckless of the safety of
their own.

And now, for a few hours, the whole interest of our narrative centres in
her whom that moment had so completely transformed and made already a
murderess in heart and in purpose. And how thoroughly must that heart
have been steeled, and how entire must have been the banishment of all
counteracting feelings, when she could for a whole day, in the midst of
a household of fellow-servants, and under the watchful eyes of an angry
mistress, continue to discharge her usual tasks, bearing this deadly
purpose in her breast, yet never, by word, look, or gesture, betray the
slightest indication of its dreadful secret,--no, not even so much as to
draw suspicion toward herself after the discovery of the crime! There
was no time or opportunity for preparation, of which little was indeed
necessary; for human life is a frail thing, and a determined hand is
always strong. She had already undergone the most effectual preparation
for such a task,--that of the soul; and when that is once thoroughly
accomplished, not much more is needed: a fact which seems not to be
understood by those patriotic assassins--French and Italian--whose
elaborately contrived infernal-machines do but betray the anxious
precautions taken to insure lives which, according to their own
professions, have been rendered valueless by tyranny, and ought
therefore to be the more freely risked. Felton and Charlotte Corday
understood their business better; but even their preparations may be
called elaborate, compared with those of this poor slave-girl.

Captain Wilde returned late in the evening with the coveted coach; and
the whole family, white and black, of course, turned out to admire that
crowning addition to the family splendor. But among the noisy group of
the latter there stood one who gazed upon the object of admiration
with thoughts far different from those of her companions; and soon the
careless mirth of all was checked and chilled into silent fear, when
they saw their master take from beneath one of the seats a new specimen
of the well-known green cow-skin, and hand it, with a troubled,
deprecating look, to his wife. Ah! they all knew that appealing look
well, and the hard, relentless frown by which it was answered, as well
as they knew the use of the dreaded instrument itself. But there was
only one among them who comprehended its immediate purpose. The glance
of cruel meaning which the tyranness, after having examined the lithe,
twisted rod critically for an instant, cast upon the object of her
malice, probably banished the last lingering hesitation from the breast
of the latter,--who turned away ostensibly to the performance of her
accustomed duties, but in reality to settle the details of a crime
unsurpassed in coolness and resolution by aught recorded of pirate or
highwayman. It was probably during the hours immediately succeeding
Captain Wilde's return that her deadly purpose shaped itself forth in
the plan finally executed; because it was not till then that she became
cognizant of all the circumstances which entered into its formation.
Seldom have more nicely calculated combinations entered into the plots
of criminals, and never was a plot depending on so many chances more
completely successful. Yet the pivot of the whole, as often in more
extensive schemes of homicide, is to be found in the reckless daring and
utter disregard of personal safety manifested throughout. For this alone
she seems to have made no calculations and taken no precautions;
her whole mind being bent apparently on the solution of one single
difficulty,--how to approach her enemy undetected.

As to the details of this affair, let us mention one or two facts, and
then the conduct of the murderess will itself explain them. We have
already stated that the only child of Captain and Mrs. Wilde, an infant
about eighteen months old, was at this time dangerously ill. For a
fortnight it had been the custom of the parents to sit up with it on
alternate nights, this night it being the father's regular turn to
perform that duty; but his trip of twenty-five or thirty miles had
fatigued him so much that it was judged best for his wife to relieve
him,--his slumbers being usually so profound as to be almost lethargic,
so that, when once fairly asleep, the loudest noises even in the same
room would fail to arouse him, and it being feared, therefore, that the
little patient might suffer, if left to his care in his present state of
weariness. In the same room slept a young negro girl, whose duty it was
to carry the child into the open air when occasion required,--an office
which Fanny herself had more than once performed. The reader will note
how ingeniously every one of these circumstances was woven into the
girl's scheme of death, and how each was made subservient to the end in

* * * * *

At ten o'clock on the night of the 18th of July, 17--, everything had
become quiet about that lonely farm-house, so completely isolated in the
midst of its wide plantation that the barking of the dogs at the nearest
dwellings was barely heard in the profound stillness. A dim light, as
if from a deeply shaded candle, shone from one of the casements to the
right of the hall-door, showing where the parents watched by the bed of
their suffering infant. Along the high-road, which, a few rods in front,
stretched white and silent in the moonlight between its long lines of
worm-fences, a solitary traveller on horseback was journeying at this
hour. This gentleman afterward remembered being more than usually
impressed by the air of peace and repose that reigned about the place,
as he rode under the tall locust-trees which skirted the yard and cast
their dark shadows over into the highway. But he did not see a female
form flitting furtively from the negro-quarters in the rear, toward the
house; and a shade of suspicion might have crossed his mind, had he
glanced back a moment later and beheld that form approach the lighted
window with stealthy, cautious steps, and peer long and intently through
the partially drawn curtains upon the scene within, then, stooping low,
glide along the moonlit wall and disappear beneath the short flight of
wooden steps that led up to the front-door.

Here ensconced, safe from observation, the murderess lay listening to
every sound in the sick-room above. Ten,--eleven,--twelve,--one,--sounded
from the clock in the dining-room on the other side of the hall.
For three hours has she crouched there, but the opportunity
she expected has not yet come. The moon was setting and deep
darkness beginning to envelop the earth, when, just as she was about to
steal forth and regain her cabin unobserved, the door above her head
opened, and the young negro nurse, still half-asleep, came forth, stood
for a moment upon the topmost step to recover her senses, and then, with
the wailing infant in her arms, descended and passed round the corner of
the house. She had barely disappeared when the murderess crept from her
lair, and, swift and noiseless as a serpent or a cat, glided up the
steps through the open door, and in another moment had again concealed
herself beneath the leaves of a large table that stood in the hall
close to the door of the sick-room, which, standing ajar, gave her an
opportunity of studying once more the situation of things within. In the
corner farthest from her lurking-place stood the bed on which her master
was slumbering, concealing with its curtains the front-window against
which it was placed. At the foot of this, under the other front-window,
was the pallet of the nurse, and midway between it and the door through
which she peered was the low trundle-bed of the sick child, on which at
this moment lay the mother,--soon to become a mother again; while at
the farther end of the room a candle was burning dimly upon the hearth.
Thus, for half an hour, the murderess crouched within a few feet of her
victim and watched, noting every circumstance with the eye of a beast of
prey about to spring. At the end of that time the nurse returned, placed
the quieted child beside its mother, and, closing the door, retired to
her own pallet, whence her loud breathing almost immediately told that
she was asleep. Still with bated breath the mulatto waited, stooping
with her ear at the keyhole till the regular respirations of the mother
and the softened panting of the little invalid assured her that all
was safe. Then, at last, turning the handle of the latch silently and
gradually, she glided into the room and stood by the side of her victim.

The whole range of imaginative literature cannot furnish an incident
of more absorbing interest; nor can the whole history of the theatre
exhibit a situation of more tremendous scenical power than was presented
at this moment in that chamber of doom. The four unconscious sleepers
with the murderess in the midst of them, bending with hard, glittering
eyes over her prey, while around them all the huge shadows cast by the
dim, untrimmed light, like uncouth monsters, rose, flitted, and fell, as
if in a goblin-dance of joy over the scene of approaching guilt. Sleep,
solemn at any time, becomes almost awful when we gaze upon it amid the
stillness of night, so mysterious is it, and so near akin to the deeper
mystery of death,--so peaceful, with a peace so much like that of the
grave: men could scarcely comprehend the idea of the one, if they were
not acquainted with the reality of the other. There lay the mother, with
her arms around her sleeping child, whose painful breathing showed that
it suffered even while it slept. Such a spectacle might have moved the
hardest heart to pity; but it possessed no such power over that of the
desperate slave, whose vindictive purpose never wavered for an instant.
Passing round the bed, she stooped and softly encircled the emaciated
little neck with her fingers. One quick, strong gripe,--the poor, weak
hands were thrown up, a soft gasp and a slight spasm, and it was done.
The frail young life, which had known little except suffering, and which
disease would probably have extinguished in a few hours or days, was
thus at once and almost painlessly cut short by the hand of violence.

And now at last the way was clear. "I knew," said she afterwards, "the
situation of my mistress; and I thought that by jumping upon her with my
knees I should kill her at once." Disturbed by the slight struggle of
the dying child, Mrs. Wilde moved uneasily for a moment, and again sunk
into quietude, lying with her face--that hard, cold face--upward. This
was the opportunity for the destroyer. Bounding with all her might from
the floor, she came down with bended knees upon the body of her victim.
But the shock, though severe, was not fatal; and with a loud cry of
"Oh, Captain Wilde, help me!" she, by a convulsive effort, threw her
assailant to the floor. Though stunned and bewildered by the suddenness
and violence of the attack, the wretched woman in that terrible moment
recognized her enemy, and felt the desperate purpose with which she was
animated, and so recognizing and so feeling, must have known in that
momentary interval all that the human soul can know of despair and
terror. But it was only for a moment; for, before she could utter a
second cry for help, the baffled assailant was again upon her with the
bound of a tigress. A blind and breathless struggle ensued between the
desperate ferocity of the slave and the equally desperate terror of the
mistress; while faster and wilder went the huge, dim shadows in their
goblin-dance, as the yellow flame flared and flickered in the agitated
air. For a few moments, indeed, the result of the struggle seemed
doubtful, and Mrs. Wilde at length, by a violent effort, raised herself
almost upright, with the infuriated slave still hanging to her throat;
but the latter converted this into an advantage, by suddenly throwing
her whole weight upon the breast of her mistress, thus casting her
violently backward across the head-board of the bed, and dislocating the
spine. Another half-uttered cry, a convulsive struggle, and the deed was
accomplished. One slight shiver crept over the limbs, and then the body
hung limp and lifeless where it had fallen,--the head resting upon the
floor, on which the long raven hair was spread abroad in a disordered
mass. The victor gazed coolly on her work while recovering breath; and
then, to make assurance doubly sure, took up, as she thought, a stocking
from the bed and deliberately tied it tight round the neck of the
corpse. Then, gliding to the door, she quitted the scene of her fearful
labors as noiselessly as she had entered, leaving behind her not one
trace of her presence,--but leaving, unintentionally, a most fatal false
trace, which suspicion continued to follow until it had run an entirely
innocent man to his grave. The last act of the drama of woman's passion
and woman's revenge was over; the tragedy of man's suffering and
endurance still went on.

How or by whom the terrible spectacle in that chamber of death was
first discovered we are not told. All we know, from the reports of the
negroes, is, that Captain Wilde, who seemed stupefied at first, suddenly
passed into a state of excitement little short of distraction,--now
raving, as if to an imaginary listener, and then questioning and
threatening those about him with incoherent violence. To these simple
observers such conduct was entirely incomprehensible; but we may easily
suppose that at this moment the unfortunate man first realized the
fearful nature of the circumstances which surrounded him, and perceived
the abyss which had yawned so suddenly at his feet. And no wonder that
he shrank back from the prospect, overwhelmed for the moment with
consternation and despair,--not the prospect of death, but of a
degradation far worse to the proud spirit of the Kentucky gentleman,
on whose good name even political hatred had never been able to fix a

The terrified negroes carried the alarm to the nearest neighbors, and
soon the report of this appalling occurrence was flying like lightning
toward the utmost bounds of the county. The first stranger who reached
the scene of death was Mr. Summers, formerly an intimate friend of
Captain Wilde. When he entered the room, he found the poor gentleman
on his knees beside the body of his child, with his face buried in the
bed-clothes. At the sound of footsteps he raised his wild, tearless
eyes, exclaiming, "My God! my God! Mr. Summers, my wife has been
murdered here, in my own room, and it will be laid on me!" Shocked by
the almost insane excitement of his old friend, and sensible of the
imprudence of his words, Summers begged him to compose himself, pointing
out the danger of such language. But the terrible thought had mastered
his mind with a monomaniacal power, and to every effort at consolation
from those who successively came in the only reply was, "Oh, my God,
it will all be laid upon me!" Fortunately, those who heard these
expressions were old friends, who, although they had been long
unfamiliar, knew the native uprightness of the man, and still felt
kindly toward one whose estrangement they knew was the effect of weak
submission to the dictation of his wife, not the result of any change in
his own feelings. They regarded his wild words as only the incoherent
utterances of a mind bewildered by horror, and were anxious to put an
end to the harrowing scene, and remove the stricken man as soon as
possible from the observation of a mixed crowd that was now rapidly
assembling from all directions, many of whom knew Captain Wilde only
in his unpopular capacity of exciseman, and would therefore be apt to
suspect a darker explanation of his strange behavior.

So shocking had been the sight presented to their eyes, on entering
the room, that hitherto no one had had sufficient presence of mind to
examine the bodies closely; but at last Mr. Summers, cooler than the
rest, approached to raise that of Mrs. Wilde, and then, for the first
time, perceived the bandage about her neck. It proved to be _a white
silk neckerchief_, which Summers removed and began to examine. As he
did so, his face was seen to grow suddenly pale as death. All pressed
anxiously forward to see, and a silent, but fearfully significant
look passed round the circle; for in one corner, embroidered in large
letters, was the name of _Cyril Wilde_. As silently every eye sought the
devoted man, and on many countenances the look of doubt settled at once
into one of conviction, when they saw that he wore no cravat; and to
many ears the heart-broken moan of the wretched husband and father,
which a moment before seemed only the foreboding of over-sensitive
innocence, now sounded like the voice of self-accusing guilt. So great
is the power of imagination in modifying our beliefs!

After such a discovery an arrest followed as a matter of course; and a
popular feeling adverse to the accused quickly manifested itself in
the community. But it is pleasant to know, that, in spite of all
appearances, many of Captain Wilde's old friends never lost faith in his
innocence, or hesitated to renew in his hour of adversity the kindly
relations that had existed before his marriage; while his own
kindred stood by him and bravely fought his hopeless battle to the
last,--employing as his advocate the celebrated John Breckenridge, who
was then almost without a rival at the Kentucky bar. But, on the other
hand, his wife's family pursued their unfortunate relative with a
savageness of hatred hardly to be paralleled. Having hunted him to the
very foot of the scaffold, their persevering malice seemed unsated even
by the sight of their victim suspended as a felon before their very
eyes; for it was reported, at the time, that two of the murdered woman's
brothers were seen upon the ground during the execution.

And now it was that the unpopularity resulting from Captain Wilde's
official employment manifested its most baleful effects. Had he
possessed at this crisis the same general good-will he had enjoyed four
years before, he might have bid defiance to the rage of his enemies, and
have escaped, in spite of all the suspicious circumstances by which he
stood environed. For the general drift of sentiment in the West has
always been against capital penalties, and it is next to impossible
to carry such penalties into effect against a popular favorite. In a
country like this we might as soon expect to see the hands of a clock
move in a direction contrary to the machinery by which it is governed,
as a jury to run counter to plainly declared popular feelings. There may
now and then be instances of their acquitting contrary to the general
sentiment, where that sentiment is unimpassioned; but we much doubt
whether there has ever occurred a single example of a jury convicting a
person in whose favor the sympathy of a whole community was warmly and
earnestly expressed. Of such sympathy Captain Wilde had none; for to the
great majority he was known only as the exciseman, and as such was an
object of hostility. Not that this hostility at any time took the form
of insult and abuse,--for we are proud to say that outside of the large
towns such disgraceful exhibitions of feeling are unknown,--but it
left the minds of the general mass liable to be operated on by all
the suspicious circumstances of the case, and by the slanders of the
personal enemies of the accused.

On the 23d of November, an immense crowd of people, both men and women,
were assembled in the court-house at ---- to witness a trial which was
to fix a dark stain on the judicial annals of Kentucky, and in which,
for the thousandth time, a court of justice was to be led fatally astray
by the accursed thing called Circumstantial Evidence, and made the
instrument of that most deplorable of all human tragedies, a formal,
legalized murder. It is one of the most glaring inconsistencies of our
law, that it admits, in a trial where the life of a citizen is at stake,
a species of testimony which it regards as too inconclusive and too
liable to misconstruction to be allowed in a civil suit involving, it
may be, less than the value of a single dollar. True, it is a favorite
maxim of prosecutors, that "circumstances will not lie"; but it requires
little acquaintance with the history of criminal trials to prove that
circumstantial evidence has murdered more innocent men than all the
false witnesses and informers who ever disgraced courts of justice by
their presence; and the slightest reflection will convince us that this
shallow sophism contains even less practical truth than the general mass
of proverbs and maxims, proverbially false though they be. For not only
is the chance of falsehood, on the part of the witness who details the
circumstances, greater,--since a false impression can be conveyed with
far less risk of detection by distortion and exaggeration of a fact than
by the invention of a direct lie,--but there is the additional danger of
an honest misconception on his part; and every lawyer knows how hard
it is for a dull witness to distinguish between the facts and his
impressions of them, and how impossible it often is to make a witness
detail the former without interpolating the latter. But the greatest
risk of all is that the jury themselves may misconstrue the
circumstances, and draw unwarranted conclusions therefrom. It is an
awful assumption of responsibility to leap to conclusions in such cases,
and the leap too often proves to have been made in the dark. God help
the wretch who is arraigned on suspicious appearances before a jury who
believe that "circumstances won't lie"! for the Justice that presides at
such a trial is apt to prove as blind and capricious as Chance herself.
In reviewing the present trial in particular, one may well feel puzzled
to decide which of these deities presided over its conduct. A Greek or
Roman would have said, Neither,--but a greater than either,--Fate; and
we might almost adopt the old heathen notion, as we watch the downward
course of the doomed gentleman from this point, and note how invariably
every attempt to ward off destruction is defeated, as if by the
persevering malice of some superior power. We shall soon see the most
popular and influential attorney of the State driven from the case by an
awkward misunderstanding; another, hardly inferior, expire almost in
the very act of pleading it; and, finally, when the real criminal
comes forward, at the last moment, to avert the ruin which she has
involuntarily drawn down upon the head of her beloved master, and
take his place upon the scaffold, we shall behold her heroic offer of
self-sacrifice frustrated by influences the most unexpected,--political
influences which--with shame be it told--were sufficient to induce a
governor of Kentucky to withhold the exercise of executive clemency, the
most glorious prerogative intrusted to our chief magistrates, and
which it ought to have been a most pleasing privilege to grant: for,
incredible as it may seem, Governor ---- knew, when he signed the
death-warrant, that the man he was consigning to an ignominious grave
was innocent of the crime for which he was to suffer.

The trial was opened in the presence of a crowded assembly, among whom
it was easy to discern that general conviction of the prisoner's guilt
so chilling to the spirits of a defendant and his counsel, and so much
deprecated by the latter, because he knows too well how far it goes
toward a prejudgment of his cause. Several of the most prominent members
of the bar had been retained by the family of Mrs. Wilde to assist the
State's attorney in the prosecution. In the defence John Breckenridge
stood alone, needing no help; for all knew that whatever man could do in
behalf of his client would be done by him. The prisoner himself, upon
whom all eyes were turned, appeared dejected, but calm, like one who had
resigned all hope. The ominous foreboding, which had so overcome him on
the fatal morning of the murder, had never left him for a single moment.
From that hour he had looked upon himself as doomed, and had yielded
only a passive acquiescence in the measures of defence proposed by
his friends, awaiting the fate which he regarded as inevitable with
a patience almost apathetic. Adversity brought out in bold relief
qualities that might have sustained a cause whose victories are
martyrdoms, but how useless to one requiring active heroism!

All the damaging facts attending the discovery of the murder--the
failure of any signs of a stranger's presence in the apartment, the
peculiar behavior of the accused, the finding of his cravat on the neck
of the corpse, his acknowledgment of having worn it on the previous
day--were fully, but impartially, detailed by the witnesses for the
Commonwealth. No one could deny that the circumstances were strongly
against the prisoner: and these shadows, at best, and too often mere
delusive mirages of truth, the law allows to be weighed against the life
of a man. Against these shadows all the powers of Breckenridge were
taxed to the uttermost; and he might have succeeded, for his eloquence
was most persuasive, and his influence over the minds of the people
nearly unlimited, had not a false witness appeared to add strength by
deliberate perjuries to a case already strong. It was the ungrateful
sister-in-law of the accused, who had owed to him a home and an asylum
from the merited scorn of her family and the world, who now came forward
to complete the picture of her own detestable character, and put the
finishing hand to her unhallowed work, by swearing away that life which
her arts had rendered scarcely worth defending, could death have come
unaccompanied by disgrace. With a manner betraying suppressed, but
ill-concealed eagerness, and in language prompt and fluent, as if
reciting by rote a carefully kept journal, she went on to detail every
fault or neglect or impatient act of her relative, not sparing exposure
of the most delicate domestic events, at the same time carefully
suppressing all mention of his provocations. In reply to the question,
whether she had ever witnessed any violence that led her to fear
personal danger to her sister, she replied, that, on one occasion,
Captain Wilde, being displeased at something in relation to the
preparation of a meal, seized a large carving-knife and flung it at his
wife, who only escaped further outrage by flying from the house. On
another occasion, she remembered, he became furiously angry because her
sister wished him to see some guests, and, seizing her by the hair,
dragged her to the door of his study, and cast her into the hall so
violently that she lay senseless upon the floor until accidentally
discovered,--her husband not even calling assistance. It is easy to
imagine what an effect such exposures of the habitual brutality of the
man, narrated by a near relation of the sufferer, and interrupted at
proper intervals by sobs and tears, would have upon an impulsive jury,
obliged to derive their knowledge of the case wholly from such a source,
and already strongly impressed by the circumstantial details with a
presumption unfavorable to the defendant. Now, since there were other
persons in the court-house who had witnessed these two scenes of alleged
maltreatment, it may seem strange that they were not brought forward
to contradict this woman on those two points, which would at once have
destroyed the effect of her entire testimony,--the maxim, _Falsum in
uno, falsum in omnibus_, being always readily applied in such cases. Had
this been done, a reaction of popular feeling would almost certainly
have followed in favor of the accused, which might have borne him safely
through, in spite of all the presumptive proof against him. For nothing
is truer than Lord Clarendon's observation, that, "when a man is shown
to be less guilty than he is charged, people are very apt to consider
him more innocent than he may actually be." But in this case the
falsehood was secured from exposure by its very magnitude, until it was
too late for such exposure to be of any benefit to the prisoner. The
persons who had beheld the scenes as they really occurred never thought
of identifying them with brutal outrages, now narrated under oath, at
which their hearts grew hard toward the unmanly perpetrator as they

Against the strong array of facts and fictions presented by the
prosecution the only circumstance that could be urged by the counsel for
the prisoner was, that the child was murdered along with the mother;
and this could only avail to strengthen a presumption of innocence, had
innocence been otherwise rendered probable; but when a conviction of
his guilt had been arrived at already, it merely served to increase the
atrocity of his crime, and to insure the enforcement of its penalty.

After a two days' struggle, in which every resource of reason and
eloquence was exhausted by the defendant's counsel, the judge proceeded
to a summing up which left the jury scarcely an option, even had they
been inclined to acquit. The latter withdrew in the midst of a deep and
solemn silence, while the respectful demeanor of the spectators showed
that at last a feeling of pity was beginning to steal into their hearts
for the unhappy gentleman, who still sat, as he had done during those
two long days of suspense, with his face buried in his hands, as
motionless as a statue. A profound stillness reigned in the hall during
the absence of the jury, broken only occasionally by a stifled sob from
some of the ladies present. After an absence of less than an hour the
jury returned and handed in a written verdict; and as the fatal word
"Guilty" fell from the white lips of the agitated clerk, the calmest
face in that whole vast assembly was that of him whom it doomed to
the ignominious death of a felon. And calm he had been ever since the
dreadful morning of his arrest; for the vial of wrath had then been
broken upon his head, and he had tasted the whole bitterness of an agony
which can be endured but a short while, and can never be felt a second
time. For, as intense heat quickly destroys the vitality of the nerves
on which it acts, and as flesh once deeply cauterized by fire is
thenceforth insensible to impressions of pain, so the soul over which
one of the fiery agonies of life has passed can never experience a
repetition thereof. Besides, it is well known that the anticipation of
an unjust accusation is far more agitating to a virtuous man than the
reality, which is sure to arouse that strange martyr-spirit wherewith
injustice always arms its victim, and supported by which alone even the
most timid men have often suffered with fortitude, and the most unworthy
died with dignity.

At that time the judicial arrangements of Kentucky allowed an appeal,
in criminal cases, from the Circuit to the District Court; and it
was determined to carry this cause before the latter tribunal, Mr.
Breckenridge declaring that he believed he should be able to reverse the
verdict. On what ground he founded this opinion we do not know: whether
he felt convinced that the local prejudice against his client and the
influence of his enemies in the County of ---- had mainly contributed to
bring about the unfavorable result of the present hearing, and he hoped
to escape these adverse agencies by a change of venue,--or whether
he counted on a change of public feeling after the first burst of
excitement had subsided, to bear him through,--or whether he had
discovered the falsehood of the testimony of the sister-in-law,--or,
finally, whether it was that he had obtained a clearer and more
favorable insight into the case, and recognized grounds of hope
therein,--it is impossible now to say. But it is certain, that to
the defendant and his friends he declared his confidence of a final
acquittal, if the cause were transferred to the appellate court; and
John Breckenridge was not a man to boast emptily, or to hold out hopes
which he knew could never be realized. But at this crisis occurred a
strange misunderstanding, which drove from the support of the wretched
victim of Fate the only man who thoroughly understood the case in all
its minutest details, and would have been most likely to conduct it to
a happy termination. When the preparations for the last struggle were
almost completed, and the time set for the final trial drew near, Mr.
McC----, who, as Captain Wilde's brother-in-law, had been most active
and zealous in his behalf, was informed by some officious intermeddler
that Breckenridge had said in confidential conversation among his
friends, "that the case was entirely desperate, that he had no hope
whatever of altering the verdict by an appeal, and the family would save
money by letting the law take its course, there being no doubt of the
justice of the sentence." Mr. McC----, believing that he might rely on
the word of his informant, unfortunately, without making any inquiry as
to the truth of the tale, and without assigning any reason, wrote to Mr.
Breckenridge a curt letter of dismissal, and immediately employed George
---- to conduct the further defence. This gentleman, surpassed by no
man in Kentucky as a logician, lawyer, and orator, was inferior to the
discarded attorney in that great requisite of a jury-lawyer, personal
popularity, besides laboring under the disadvantage of being new to the
case, and having but a short time to make himself acquainted with its
details. Personal pique and professional punctilio, of course, withheld
his predecessor from affording any further assistance or advice in a
business from which he had been so summarily dismissed. We cannot now
measure accurately the effect of this change of counsel; we only know,
that, at the time, it was considered most disastrous by those having the
best opportunities of judging.

But if Mr. ---- went into the cause under this disadvantage, he was
spurred on by the consideration that in his client he was defending a
friend: for they had been friends in youth, and, though long separated,
the tie had never been interrupted. Hence he threw himself into the case
with an ardor which money could never have inspired, and in the course
of the few remaining days had succeeded in mastering all its essential

The interest excited by this second trial was as deep and far more
widely spread than by the first. Few proceedings of the kind in Kentucky
ever called together a crowd at once so large and intelligent, a great
proportion being lawyers, who had been induced to attend by the desire
to witness what it was expected would be one of the most brilliant
efforts of an eminent member of their fraternity.

The principal difference between the two trials was, that, on this
occasion, the testimony of the sister-in-law was much damaged by the
exposure both of her exaggerations and suppressions of important facts
touching the incident at the breakfast-table. Having incautiously
allowed herself to be drawn into particularizing so minutely as to fix
the exact date, and so positively as to render retraction impossible,
she was, to her own evident discomfiture, flatly contradicted by more
than one of those present on that occasion, who described the scene
as it actually occurred. Of course, after such a revelation of
untruthfulness, her whole testimony became liable to suspicion, the
more violent that the falsehood was plainly intentional. Moreover, the
defendant was now provided with evidence of the constant and intolerable
provocations to which he had been subjected during the whole of his
married life. Of this, however, the most moderate and guarded use was to
be made; because, while it was necessary, by exposing the true character
and habitual violence of his wife, to relieve the prisoner of that load
of public indignation which had been excited against him on account
of his alleged brutality, it was even more important that no strong
resentment should be supposed to have grown up on his part against his
tormentor. This delicate task was managed by the attorney with such
consummate skill, that, when the evidence on both sides was closed,
public sympathy, if not public conviction, had undergone a very
perceptible change. The prosecutors, aware of this, felt the success of
their case endangered, and exerted themselves to the utmost to prevent
the tide, now almost in equilibrium, from ebbing back with a violence
proportionate to that of its flow. But the argument even of their ablest
champion, John ----, seemed almost puerile, in comparison with this, the
last effort of George ----,--an effort which was long remembered, even
less on account of its melancholy termination than for its extraordinary
eloquence. The Kentuckians of that day were accustomed to hear
Breckenridge, Clay, Talbot, Allen, and Grundy, all men of singular
oratorical fame,--but never, we have heard it affirmed, was a more
moving appeal poured into the ears of a Kentucky jury. Availing himself
of every resource of professional skill, he now demonstrated, to the
full satisfaction of many, the utter inadequacy of the circumstantial
evidence upon which so much stress had been laid to justify a
conviction,--sifting and weighing carefully every fact and detail,
and trying the conclusions that had been drawn therefrom by the most
rigorous and searching logic,--and then, assailing the credibility of
the testimony brought forward to prove the habitual cruelty of his
client, he gave utterance to a withering torrent of invective and
sarcasm, in which the character of the main hostile witness shrivelled
and blackened like paper in a flame. Then--having been eight hours on
his feet--he began to avail himself of that last dangerous resource
which genius only may use,--the final arrow in the lawyer's quiver,
which is so hard to handle rightly, and, failing, may prove worse than
useless, but, sped by a strong hand and true aim, often tells decisively
on a hesitating jury,--we mean a direct appeal to their feelings. Like a
skilful leader who gathers all his exhausted squadrons when he sees the
crisis of battle approaching, the great advocate seemed now to summon
every overtaxed power of body and spirit to his aid, as he felt that the
moment was come when he must wring an acquittal from the hearts of his
hearers. Nor did either soul or intellect fail at the call. Higher and
stronger surged the tide of passionate eloquence, until every one felt
that the icy barrier was beginning to yield,--for tears were already
seen on more than one of the faces now leaning breathlessly forward from
the jury-box to listen,--when all at once a dead silence fell throughout
the hall: the voice whose organ-tones had been filling its remotest
nook suddenly died away in a strange gurgle. Several physicians present
immediately divined what had happened; nor were the multitude near kept
long in doubt; for all saw, at the next moment, a crimson stream welling
forth from those lips just now so eloquent,--checking their eloquence,
alas, forever! It was quickly reported through the assembly that the
speaker had ruptured one of the larger blood-vessels in the lungs. The
accident was too dangerous for delay, and George ---- was borne almost
insensible from the scene of his struggles and his triumphs, to reenter,
as it proved, no more. He lived but three days longer,--long enough,
however, to learn that he had sacrificed his life in vain, the jury
having, after a lengthened consideration, affirmed the former verdict
against his friend and client.

The unfortunate man stood up to receive this second sentence with the
same face of impassive misery with which he had listened to the first.
To the solemn mockery, "If he had anything to urge why sentence of death
should not be passed upon him," he shook his head wearily, and answered,
"Nothing." It was evident that his mind was failing fast under the
overwhelming weight of calamity. It was sad to see this high-born,
but ill-fated gentleman thus bowing humbly to a felon's doom; and the
remembrance of that scene must have been a life-long remorse to his
judges, when the events of a few weeks revealed to them the terrible
truth, that he was innocent of the crime for which they had condemned

We will not dwell upon the events alluded to; for even at the distance
of nearly three-quarters of a century they are too painful and
humiliating. Suffice it to say, that, when the murderess discovered that
her beloved master was to suffer for her crime, and that no other chance
of salvation remained, she made a full confession of the whole matter.
But the sentence had been pronounced, and the power of suspending its
execution rested with the Governor; and that dignitary--let his name,
in charity, remain unsaid--was about to be a candidate for reelection to
the office which he disgraced, while the family of the murdered lady was
one of the most extensive and influential in the State, the whole of
which influence was thrown into the scale against mercy and justice.
With what result was seen, when, on the morning of the ---- of April,
17--, the prison-doors were opened for the last time for his passage,
and Cyril Wilde was led forth to the execution of an iniquitous
sentence, though, even while the sad cart was moving slowly, very
slowly, through the crowded, strangely silent street, some of the very
men who had pronounced it were imploring the Governor almost on their
knees that it might be stayed. The prisoner alone seemed impatient to
hasten the reluctant march, and meet the final catastrophe. He knew of
the efforts that were making to save him, and the confession on which
they were founded. He had listened to hopeful words and confident
predictions; but no expression of hope had thereby been kindled for an
instant on his pale, dejected face. The ominous premonition which had
come upon him at the moment of that first overpowering realization of
his danger continued to gain strength with every successive stroke of
untoward Fate, until it had become the ruling idea of his mind, in which
there grew up the sort of desperate impatience with which we long for
any end we know to be inevitable. The waters of his life had been so
mingled with gall, and the bitter draught so long pressed to his lips,
that now he seemed only eager to drain at once the last dregs, and cast
the hated cup from him forever,--impatient to find peace and rest in
the grave, even if it were the grave of a felon, and at the foot of the

Here let the curtain fall upon the sad closing scene. We will only
remark, in conclusion, that the name and family of this ill-fated victim
of false and circumstantial evidence have long since disappeared from
the land where they had known such disgrace; and but few persons are
now living who can recall the foregoing details of the once celebrated
"Wilde Tragedy."


Long I owe a song, my Brother, to thy dear and deathless claim;
Long I've paused before thy ashes, in my poverty and shame:
Something stirs me now from silence, with a fixed and awful breath;
'Tis the offspring of thy genius, that was parent to thy death.

They were murderous, these statues; as they left thy teeming brain,
Their hurry and their thronging rent the mother-mould in twain:
So the world that takes them sorrowful their beauties must deplore;
From the portals whence they issued lovely things shall pass no more.

With a ghostly presence wait they in a stern and dark remorse,
As the marbles they are watching were sepulchral to thy corse;
Nay, one draws his cloak about him, and the other standeth free
With his patriot arms uplifted to the grasp of Liberty.

Shall I speak to you, ye silent ones? Your father lies at rest,
With the mighty impulse folded, like a banner, to his breast;
Ye are crowned with remembrance, and the glory of men's eyes;
But within that heart, low buried, some immortal virtue lies.

When with heavy strain and pressure ye were lifted to your height,
Then his passive weight was lowered to the vaults of sorrowing Night:
They who lifted struggled sorely, ere your robes on high might wave;
They who lowered with a spasm laid such greatness in its grave.

In the moonlight first I saw you,--with the dawn I take my leave;
Others come to gaze and wonder,--not, like me, to pause and grieve:
Sure, whatever heart doth hasten here, of master or of slave,
This aspect of true nobleness makes merciful and brave.

But I know the spot they gave him, with the cool green earth above,
Where I saw the torchlight glitter on the tears of widowed love,
And we left his garlands fading;--to redeem that moment's pain,
Would that ye were yet in chaos, and your master back again!

No! the tears have Nature's passport, but the wish is poor and vain,
Since every noblest human work such sacrifice doth gain;
God appoints the course of Genius, like the sweep of stars and sun:
Honor to the World's rejoicing, and the Will that must be done!



We left our privateer, the Revenge, Captain Norton, of Newport, Rhode
Island, making sail for New Providence, with her lately captured prize.
There was an English Court of Admiralty established on this island, and
here the prize was to be condemned and sold. The Journal begins again on
Monday, 10th August, 1741.

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